Marvel-lous Endgame, but is the buzz gone?

I watched a YouTube video yesterday on John Campea’s channel where he discussed the potential that the excitement for the Marvel Cinematic Universe was drying up in a way. If you don’t know who he is, he is a movie & TV critic who used to run movie news shows and now does his own thing. His video is worth a watch if you’re interested in his take on it, but I won’t go into his video too much here. 

This will contain spoilers for all the MCU including Avengers Endgame & Spiderman Far from Home.

What I realised listening to the topic was that I agreed with the points being brought up about the future of the MCU. The recent announcements at D23 were interesting, but none of them really got me excited for the projects. Here is where the sporting analogies begin, it felt a lot like a fixture list being released for a football team. Each season fans eagerly wait for the fixtures to be announced before reading them and there is a universal acceptance that yep, we will all be watching them. That is what I felt watching the D23 Marvel panel. Yep, these are all films I will watch.

Contrast that with the Phase 3 announcements that unveiled all the films that led into Infinity War & Endgame. At the time it looked a little different to what we got, with Spiderman popping up and The Inhumans being bumped down to an Agents of Shield storyline, but the hype around it was incredible. I remember my jaw dropping when they revealed Civil War. I couldn’t believe that was happening so soon. In my mind back then, Civil War was the next big event to follow Infinity War. But there it was on screen, Captain America: Civil War.

That slate brought us to where we are right now, a Post-Endgame world. Endgame was an incredible experience, something never seen before and when we look back on the first 10 years of the MCU we will realise it is without doubt the greatest movie franchise ever. Sorry Star Wars, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. If you combine all those movies, you have ten Star Wars films, three Lord of the Rings films, and eight Harry Potter films. That makes a total of twenty-one films which is still two less than the MCU has covered. Twenty-three connected films all combining in one epic finale which delivered on the years of set up.

Endgame was brilliant, but did it actually harm the future of the MCU? With the separation we now have from the film, I think it may well have. Endgame finished a few of our main characters stories, with Cap retiring as an old man and Tony Stark sacrificing himself. Those two were the pillars which the MCU stood upon. Civil War was a film about them two main pillars being divided, Endgame was them coming back together before leaving the MCU they had built to fend for itself.

In sports terms, Endgame for Marvel was like winning the Premier League, the Champions League and the FA Cup in one season, or like winning the Superbowl. But in doing so they lost their best two players. What I think has been an unexpected and tough loss to take, is that their new star player they had to take over from the old guard has just left as well in contentious circumstances.

Regardless of what studio executives might say about “This was always a possibility” etcetera, I think it’s clear Spiderman was being positioned to be the new face of the MCU. They know exactly what they had with Tom Holland in the role, and they wanted to bring that front and centre with great supporting players like Captain Marvel, Black Panther, Thor, Guardians and Doctor Strange. That stable of characters could carry the load while Spiderman becomes the leader of a new collection of characters. Now they are back where they were in 2008.

The current slate is full of characters I know very little about, but the MCU has proved prior knowledge means nothing and they can still make incredible films, for example let me present exhibit A, Guardians of the Galaxy. Guardians came out at a time when we had the MCU stalwarts well in their stride, Cap and Iron Man were known around the world and any films connected to their MCU was a must see.  Shang-chi and Ms. Marvel aren’t doing that, they are coming out in the wake of what felt for a lot of people like the perfect end for the MCU. Spiderman Far from Home even felt like a perfect epilogue, showing the world in recovery and answering some of the questions.

Winning a Superbowl is hard. Losing your Key players before trying to do it again is even harder. Often, we see a team win a Superbowl and then struggle to reach the same level for a few years. In the Premier league, teams go in cycles, winning for a few years then rebuilding. But there are exceptions. The challenge for Marvel chief Kevin Feige is now to turn the MCU from a title winning team, into a dynasty. Think Tom Brady. Think Bill Belichick. Think Sir Alex Ferguson. They have built teams that win, and then keep winning.

I am not sure it’s even possible to do that in the entertainment industry, perhaps I didn’t sleep enough, and this makes no sense. But if it is possible to apply that analogy, I think the MCU may be the best position to do it. I wrote yesterday about DC, and how they are possibly able to take a shot at being the next big thing. I didn’t say that the reigning champion would give it up without a fight.

ChAzJS

 

Advertisements

Avengers Endgame – SPOILER TALK

Avengers Endgame is an incredible achievement. Movies have never even attempted this, and this review will ruin the film for you. Do not read on if you have not seen the film, unless you just really don’t care about spoilers I guess. I am going to talk through my favourite moments from the film, basically recapping it and how I felt when it happened. I am sure this is going to descend into me just gushing about what happened, but here goes;

Starting out with Hawkeye is something I had actually read speculation on just a week before, and the way it plays out is a really gut-wrenching moment. Having been set up in Age of Ultron as a family man, he is spending time with his family, helping his daughter practice with a bow and arrow. Then he loses them all. His wife, daughter and two sons are dusted with him completely clueless as to what is happening. Answering any questions we had about what transformed Clint into the brutal ninja Ronin, who is carving up thugs in Tokyo when we catch up to him next.

There are easy questions you can ask throughout this film, but honestly you can make up your own answers in your head for the majority, like “How did Captain Marvel know where Tony Stark and Nebula were stranded?” They sent out a distress beacon, there. I don’t know, the film doesn’t attempt to explain it and it doesn’t need to because the point is to get Tony Stark and Cap back together, to try and figure out what they can do. There are shades of Iron Man 3 here, with Tony a withered, angry, defeated man who is all out of ideas. Robert Downey Jr really does deliver some of the best acting in the whole film in these scenes and you really feel his frustration and the weight of what they have lost.

This is when the movie decides to deliver its first real surprise blow, by straight up beheading Thanos in the opening 20 minutes of the film. It’s a bold choice, and executed brilliantly. It essentially means 99% of the trailers we saw are from this opening salvo, leaving us two and a half hours of movie with very little ideas about what is going to happen. Thanos’ destroying the stones is a great twist, something I hadn’t expected. Captain Marvel shows off her power, and Thor aiming for the head at last really got a pop of shock from the audience. It’s a brutally violent moment, but it’s justified when you think about the events that took place at the end of Infinity War.

The “How” of Antman’s return from the quantum realm is a little bit silly, but I think in a movie with a 3 hour run time its easy enough to forgive and forget that. Once he is back and learns of the dusting, after an emotional reuniting with his daughter that is the first sign of sniffles in most theatres, he goes straight to the avengers and this is the first time when you have to have done your homework and watched Antman and the Wasp. That film sets up, with a single line from Michelle Pfeiffer, that time works differently in the quantum realm and Scott confirming that to Steve Rogers and the rest of the avengers. The first reference to a Time Machine made me smile, because I was not convinced they would actually do it. But wow did they.

The first act is a lot of talking and set up, but after 21 other films we are so into these characters it all works. Imagine this being the first avengers film, it would feel way too slow, and the conversations wouldn’t hold any weight. The next huge pop in the cinema was for Hulk, who is now a combination of Hulk and Bruce banner. Huge and green, but with the intellect and voice of Bruce. It’s an awesome reference to the comics and the old animated show I used to love and the idea that he is now a kind of celebrity that poses for selfies is brilliant.

And then we go to New Asgard, and one of my favourite scenes in the whole film. Thor, despondent from what he perceives as his mistake that cost the lives of half a universe, has gotten fat. He hangs out with Ragnarok favourites Korg and Meek playing Fortnite. It’s hilarious and the fact they committed to him being Fat Thor (Fhor from this point on) for the entire film is just genius. I thought when he goes into battle and has both Mjolnir and Stormbreaker he would become Buff Hemsworth but no, I can finally say, after years of hard work, I have the same body as Thor.

The time-heist portion of the film is some of the most self-congratulatory victory lap stuff imaginable, and I lapped up every second with a huge grin on my face. Not only do the run us through the events of previous films, even Thor The Dark World, but they play with the scenes we know and love and deliver even more awesome moments. Everything in the 2012 New York is brilliant, from future Banners encounter with Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One from Dr Strange, to 2012 hulks anger at having to take the stairs. Iron Man and Antman fail after Scott defends Steve Rogers’ tight buns, Loki gets away with the Tesseract, setting up his new TV series, and Captain America gets the first of his numerous brilliant moments.

Stepping into a lift filled with hydra agents exactly like he did in The Winter Soldier. In that scene from a few years ago, he kicks everyone ass in a breathtakingly cool action scene. I fully expected them to repeat that, but no. He announces he is taking point on this one. Then when everyone is uncomfortably shifting and getting ready to throw down, he leans over to whisper “Hail Hydra”. This moment is an incredible pay off for the entire Winter Soldier film, and a brilliant reference to a very controversial comic line. To follow this up with him walking straight into 2012 Captain America is a stroke of absolute genius, and the fight ends with Steve confirming that it is indeed America’s ass.

Clint and Natasha’s trip to Volmir is a part of the movie I didn’t think I would really enjoy. If I’d have known it existed before viewing the film, I’d have picked this as prime toilet break territory. In actual fact, it’s a brilliant acted and choreographed scene that results in a shock, as Natasha sacrifices herself to save her best friend and let him see his family again. The fact that I and everyone in the cinema gave a crap about Hawkeye and Black Widow is testament to the brilliant world Marvel has built.

After a detour to the 1970’s for a few cameos from a young Howard Stark, Caps love Peggy Carter, a de-aged Michael Douglas as Hank Pym, and of course the man who created these characters, Stan Lee, they have all the stones. Another bit of plot convenience when Tony’s iron man technology can handle the power of the stones has to be ignored again here, considering Thanos had to get dwarves to make the gauntlet from the heart of a dying star. That minor point aside, Hulk takes the gauntlet, being the only one close to Thanos’ power and therefore able to use the stones without dying, and snaps to try and bring back everyone who got dusted at the end of the last film.

Job Done. Let’s all go home.

Actually no, let’s have the most incredible hour of cinema I have ever witnessed.

Nebula, whose robotic parts meant Thanos in 2014 found out about the plan, has been replaced by the evil Nebula from that time period. She brings Thanos and his entire giant ship through time from 2014 to the future. Just after the avengers realise the Hulk snap worked as Clint is on the phone to his previously dead wife, Thanos’ absolutely fucks their day up with artillery fire all over the base. It is carpet bombed into a devastated mess. Conveniently again, nobody is fatally wounded, but everyone is in different levels of peril.

The avengers are scattered about, Rocket Rhodey and Hulk are pinned under a load of rubble with water rising. Hawkeye awakes with Gauntlet, stones and all, just feet away, and a load of enemies on his tail. Iron man, Cap and Fhor find each other, and all three of them confront Thanos, who has been sitting, thinking about the victory his future self achieved, and planning how to improve on that. He settles on the idea that the balancing of the universe can never work whilst there are still those who remember what there was before. He wants to snap everyone out of existence, and create a new universe that doesn’t know any different.

Of course, we can’t be having that, and the three heroes charge at Thanos. This fight is epic, and it just consistently builds. Thanos, without any stones backing him up, is comfortable fighting 3 very powerful avengers. He knocks out Iron Man, throws Cap aside, and goes toe to toe with Fhor, armed with both Stormbreaker and Mjolnir. Thanos manages to make him drop Mjolnir in the dirt, and gets hold of Stormbreaker, pushing it into Fhor’s chest.

Then the Hammer lifts off the dirt, and smacks Thanos onto his (Antman free) Anus. Mjolnir then returns to the right hand of none of than Captain fucking America. This moment for the loudest cheer I have ever witnessed in a UK cinema. This moment put a huge smile on my face, as it confirms to me my theory that Cap could have picked it up in Age of Ultron, but chose not to, because he didn’t want to take it away from Thor. Cap then proceeds to deliver an ass whooping to Thanos with his shield and Mjolnir, only to be disarmed of the hammer. He then battles Thanos, a man who beat the hulk in a one on one fight, and his shield gets smashed again and again, eventually being shattered down to just half of the shield we recognise before he is hit back 30 feet and he lies there.

Thanos starts monologuing, like any good villain, but of course a beaten down Cap just pulls himself back up to his feet, tightens the half a shield around his arm, and stands to face Thanos and his entire army. This is when I come the closest I ever have to crying tears of happiness. That crackle of a radio and Sam Wilson’s voice bursts through. “On Your Left”, right on cue we see the familiar fizzle of sparks from a certain sorcerer’s portal. Remember just before this fight, when Hulk snapped and brought back all our dusted heroes? Well here they are. More and more portals open up, more and more familiar characters; every one of them gets a cheer from the audience. Cap stands at the front, and for the final time in the MCU, he says “Avengers Assemble”.

It’s ridiculous, cheesy, and incredibly geeky. But this whole fight scene is just so perfect. We get characters we have never seen interact fighting side by side. Everyone gets a moment, and then as Scarlet Witch is about to pull Thanos into bite size chunks, he calls for another carpet bombing of the area, showing again his ruthlessness to achieve his goals as he kills half his own army by doing this.

The guns turning up to fire at something else threw me off I have to be honest. I was worried/excited for a second something like the Silver Surfer was going to turn up, but no, it’s the newest member of the MCU, and by far the most over powered, Captain Marvel. She takes out the giant ship with ease. After more fighting, Thanos eventually gets the gauntlet back on his hand, and as he is about to snap, Carol is there again to stop him. There is an awesome moment when he head butts her, a tried and tested technique for dealing with avengers, but she doesn’t move an inch.

There’s another moment here when I was worried they was going to have her beat Thanos with ease, and that would have been a bit of an cheap victory for me. As it is, he grabs the power stone and punches her miles away. It isn’t going to be her. He puts the stone back in the glove, but Tony Stark is right there to try and stop him, grabbing onto the gauntlet seemingly trying to take it off. He doesn’t do it. Thanos throws him aside, says “I am Inevitable”, before snapping his fingers.

Thanos snapped, but he didn’t have the infinity stones, ya boy Tony Stark has them. He looks Thanos dead in the eye, and the final line we see Tony say in the MCU whilst alive is “I. Am. Iron Man.”. This moment is stupid. It’s about as subtle as a brick in the face. Its fan service at its most obvious. And it works completely perfectly because Marvel earned it. Eleven years ago Iron Man launched this franchise, a series of films that all led to this moment. To Tony Stark sacrificing his life to save everyone.

That sacrifice would be a fitting end, but the film then goes onto give another MCU stalwart a fitting send of in another way. Chris Evans made Captain America an interesting character, and as I said he has some incredible moments in this film. The end of this whole 11 year saga isn’t the death of Tony Stark, as emotionally fulfilling as that is. It’s the passing of the torch, or should I say Shield. The character of Steve Rogers has always been a man out of time, a man who doesn’t fit in the world. So once he has returned the Infinity stones to the times they got them back from, he doesn’t come back to the modern day. He goes back and gets that dance with Peggy, a call back to the final line of his own debut film.

None of this film really works without the other 21 films before it. 11 years ago Marvel stopped treating comic book movies like kids films, and decided to play the long game. The Dark Knight might be the greatest individual Superhero based film, but even that masterpiece can’t compete with the MCU anymore. This saga has surpassed anything in cinematic history. Last year it delivered the Empire Strikes Back for a new generation, with Thanos Winning. This year, it went beyond “Return of the Jedi” or even “Return of the King” and delivered the most satisfying end to a franchise ever.

What is even more incredible is that while this is a definite end to one story, it leaves the door wide open for countless more. It shouldn’t have been possible, but Marvel did it.

And they could do this all day.

Think that last line is too much? Yeah it felt like too much to me too.

SPOILER FREE – Avengers Endgame Review

10 years, 21 films, over 38 hours of cinema. All of that in an effort to set up one film. That film is Avengers Endgame and the fact this even exists is enough to put a smile on my face. Did Marvel actually manage to land this incredible, decade long journey?

It kind of goes without saying at this point, but you should not watch this film without doing your homework. Without the supporting 21 films, this really doesn’t work at all. However this film does have the 21 supporting films it needs to be able to tell the finale of a story its audience is completely invested in. Characters we have loved for 10 years, with nearly all the same actors in the roles (Terrence Howard must be kicking himself) allow this movie to forego with setting up the protagonists. Last year’s epic Infinity War set up Thanos, and paid off on the promise of his looming presence over 10 years with a simple snap of the fingers.

So, all the characters are people we know and love, allowing Endgame to just be all action three hour romp right? Well, no it doesn’t. Endgame starts quick, and then kind of slows down to a brisk walk as it sets up the events of the film. I am being as vague as I can, as there is so much that could be spoiled. The first two acts are a slow build, very much like a piece of music. It puts into place all the elements needed before breaking out into a breathtaking crescendo that lasts an hour and will make nerds happier than when they have their first child.

The actors we have watched for 10 years are all excellent. Chris Evans consistently portrays Steve Rogers perfectly, and believably, although he shouldn’t have shaved that beard. Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo and Scarlett Johansson are all great and all get their moments to shine in ways we haven’t necessarily seen before. Top of the performances for me though are split between 4 people. Robert Downey Jr is of course amazing as Tony Stark, he started all this and is maybe the most accurate casting in history.

Less expected, at least to me, was Paul Rudd as Ant Man, he is genuinely funny, and also seems to have that giddy excitement about being an Avenger. Jeremy Renner returns as Hawkeye, and he is given more to do and a better arc than any of his previous outings. The biggest surprise of all though is Karen Gillan, as daughter of Thanos, Nebula. She has been an odd, very one note character throughout, but for some reason in this film I got it. The character makes sense more than she ever has during this film and she is slowly becoming more human the more time she spends around the heroes.

There isn’t much I can talk about in this spoiler free review, except to say that I was hooked for 3 hours, and I felt incredibly satisfied with the ending. This is much less like a film, and more like the finale of an epic TV series. One with 22 feature length episodes, and more characters that you care about than most TV shows. If you are a Marvel fan, you are in for a great end to the “Infinity Saga” that started 10 years ago. This is an impossible film that works, and pays off a decade of hype in a satisfying way.

Good: Marvel fans will adore this film, and it will bring some nerds to tears, whether that Joyous or Sad tears I will let you decide.

Bad: As a standalone movie watched on its own, it makes very little sense, but nobody should go into any franchise at episode 22.

9/10 – They did it. Again. 

 

Ranking the Marvel Cinematic Universe – 15 – 11

With the culmination of 11 years of films coming next month in Avengers Endgame, I have decided to go through and really think about the films that got us here. I am going rank them in order of how much I enjoyed them all. Doing all 20 films at once is madness, so this week I’m doing the films from 15 down to 11. So here goes…

15 – The Incredible Hulk

I think an Incredible Hulk film is one of the hardest characters to make a film about, let alone one that’s actually fun to watch. Louis Leterrier, someone who’s rather hot and cold when you look through his IMDB page, directed this film at a time when nobody it was linked in any way to Iron Man. A shared universe wasn’t something that even made sense to people outside of the comic book reading portion of the public. So to make a decent Hulk film and connect it to a wider universe is actually a very hard thing to do.

Incredible Hulk is by no means perfect, but I am not really sure it would have been possible to make a better Hulk movie in 2008. I actually think Eric Bana is really good in the role of Bruce Banner, and he gives it his all and takes it as seriously as Robert Downey Jr did in Iron Man that same year. The action, when it comes, is also quite well done. Now of course the action struggles to compare to the later films, and the next time we see the hulk is when Mark Ruffalo takes over in the first Avengers movie, so I think a lot of people have a somewhat low opinion of this film just because of time.

Tim Roth is arguably the only compelling villain in the opening phase of the MCU until Loki’s turn in The Avengers. His “Emil Blonsky” hs decent motivations, and is very entertaining when he’s on-screen. In the third act it falls into the trope marvel has set up of “Hero fights mirror of themselves in their first solo film” which we have seen countless times now, but this is actually a pretty fun fight. It’s like watching a fight on a video game, as the two hulking brutes smash-up the area around them. It’s an odd MCU film, in that it almost stands on its own separate from the MCU, and perhaps that different flavour is one reason I enjoy the film.

14 – Antman

Somehow Antman isn’t a joke of a film. It is the first time a Marvel film has gone for being a straight up comedy, with the action truly being a backseat. Antman plays out like a heist comedy, with a cast of characters who are all eccentric and entertaining revolving around the excellent and age defying Paul Rudd. He plays the straight man here, with the rest of the cast given license to lean into their characters oddities and it all comes together in a genuinely funny film.

Michael Douglas playing the mentor role is perfect, and the fact that an actor as lauded as Michael Douglas is in this film really adds some legitimacy to the Comic Book movie genre. He commits 100% to the role, and has done in every showing since. His chemistry with Paul Rudd is great, as is Rudd’s with Evangeline Lilly. The two have actual chemistry, something Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman simply did have not in their films which alone puts it above those on the list.

My favourite element of this whole film is the final fight, and that is why it’s at this spot above the films it’s above. Without the finale this is a decent film, with the same problems as any marvel origin film. The villain is ably acted by Corey Stoll but never particularly engaging, but the fight between him and our hero at the end is simply brilliant. The whole fight feels epic and huge, but it’s all taking place in a child’s bedroom. The creative ways they use this situation are hilarious and genius in equal measure.

13 – Avengers: Age of Ultron

Following the first Avengers film was always going to be difficult. What Joss Whedon did with this film I actually really enjoyed, but I think the expectations of fans to see something that surpassed that first film was too much. When you watch it now, in context of the MCU as we know it like one long TV series, and not as the sequel to the first Avengers, I think it’s a really solid entry.

Casting James Spader to voice Ultron is so perfect, and every scene with him in I really enjoy. I also think it gives us some great moments with the avengers all gathered around talking, relaxing with each other. That first confrontation with Ultron always sticks in my mind when I think of the great moments of the MCU. The third act and the use of quicksilver are a little odd in terms of story choice, but once you get over the ridiculousness of a super intelligent robots version of extinction being “Drop a big rock on earth”, it’s actually got some awesome hero moments.

I do think Joss Whedon struggled for too long trying to top the previous film, without focusing on just making this one its own story. The circling shot of all the original Avengers was the iconic moment of the MCU for a long time, and trying to recreate that as they did in this film felt a bit cheap to me. Those kind of moments are what make this film the lowest ranked “Team-up” movie on my list, but I still think Age of Ultron is a fun film to watch.

12 Iron Man 3

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is an awesome movie. The Nice Guys is an awesome movie. Giving the man behind those films the wheel for an Iron Man film is a bold, but I think great move. Shane Black’s films all have his style on them, and Iron Man 3 is no different. This is the first time we see Tony Stark struggle, it’s the first time we see that the man inside the suit is affected by the events we see him fly, punch and blast his way through.

Iron Man 3 showing us Tony in a different light is brave, and so is having him blow up all of his suits. What I think treads right on the line of where brave storytelling becomes stupid decision is the whole Mandarin switch that they went with here. Aldrich Killian, played by Guy Pearce, is actually a good villain in this film, just he was not the one we was promised in the trailers. Going in we all expected to see the arrival of The Mandarin, Iron Man’s traditional foe. Instead Sir Ben Kingsley is used to portray an actor who is playing the role of the Mandarin for Aldrich Killian’s company.

I completely understand all the criticisms people have of this film, but for some reason I enjoy this film a lot, almost in spite of itself. I enjoy all of the action, I like the dynamic between Tony and the kid, and seeing our heroes struggling with the after effects of their heroics is a refreshing change from the norm. I know some people like their Tony Stark cocky, confident and in his Iron suit for most of the film. This is not that film, and I really like it for that reason.

11 – Black Panther

I have had to check several times over to make sure I have this right. Black Panther is an absolutely brilliant film. and it didn’t crack my top ten. I am sure it ranks higher for some people, but I ranked this list on which films I found the most enjoyable, memorable and told the best stories. For me, Black Panther tells a nice story about the origins of an insanely cool character, but it came after Thor Ragnarok, Spiderman Homecoming and Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Those 3 films had a real feeling of fun, and I felt the MCU had struck an even tone in its films. Black Panther differs from that tone.

Chadwick Boseman is excellent as T’challa, playing it exactly how he should. The problem I have is that I don’t find him to be a particularly entertaining character. The supporting cast is all more interesting to me than the title character itself, including antagonist Killmonger. That antagonist plays a key role in making this essentially the perfect blueprint for a MCU origin movie. The key difference this film has is that I actually found myself agreeing with the villains ideals, just not his methods.

By the end of this film, so does T’challa, and he ends up doing that thing that Michael B Jordan’s character has been saying all along with his crusade. That different twist is very compelling and one of the better twists in the MCU. This all adds up to be one of the best MCU films from a technical perspective, and if I had brought in cultural impact into the equation I think this might be in the top 2 or 3. I am ranking on my own personal enjoyment, and for me the action didn’t quite hit and I didn’t laugh enough, and those two facets are what I love about the Marvel films.

So there we have it, the bottom 10 is complete, and goes as follows:

20 – Thor: The Dark World

19 – Thor

18 – Iron Man 2

17 – Antman and the Wasp

16 – Captain America: First Avenger

15 – The Incredible Hulk

14 – Antman

13 – Avengers: Age of Ultron

12 – Iron Man 3

11 – Black Panther

 

Ranking the Marvel Cinematic Universe – 16-20

With the culmination of 11 years of films coming next month in Avengers Endgame, I have decided to go through and really think about the films that got us here. I am going rank them in order of how much I enjoyed them all. Doing all 21 films at once is madness, so I’m breaking into four and this week is the bottom of the barrel. The worst the MCU has coughed up. You will notice from the title I am only ranking 20 movies, not the full 21. That is because I am leaving out Avengers Infinity War, as in a lot of ways that and Endgame are two halves of one whole and also because it would be No 1 easily, but only because of the groundwork done by the previous 20. So here goes, bottom of the list:

This post contains spoilers for every film, some major, some minor, so reader beware!

20 – Thor: The Dark World

There’s only one film I think could take this spot, and it’s a film nearly everyone agrees is “meh” at best. Taking the foundations of the first film and making Thor an even less relatable character was an odd choice, and that for me is where this film falls down. There’s also the forced relationship between Natalie Portman and Chris Hemsworth on top of some comedic beats that fall flat on their face.

All that being said it’s got some redeeming features, the actions exciting, Tom Hiddleston as Loki is entertaining at all times and he’s given plenty to do in this film. What I think could have been utilised more in Dark World is Thor’s companions like Lady Sif, and the Warriors three. They’re relegated to side roles and I think this could have been a better team up movie than it was, although I do wonder if we’d have got the magnificent Ragnarok, which is essentially a team up movie, without getting through this faltering effort.

All in all, Thor: The Dark World combines some of the worst elements of the MCU movies and doesn’t do enough of the good elements to keep its head above the average line. Arguably the franchise’s biggest waste of an actor is with Christopher Eccleston as one note villain Malekith is the biggest sin of all, and that pushes this film to the bottom of the MCU list for me.

19 – Thor

I can imagine some people harbour fond memories of this film, as it has a lot of fun moments, but if you go back and re-watch it, this is the most glaringly obvious evidence that marvel was still very new to this during Phase 1. Chris Hemsworth has grown into an excellent character, but here is stiff, unrelatable and at times simply unlikable. He acts like a Shakespeare character taken out of time and plonked into the real world, but he’s actually from a world that is far in advance of Earth’s technology.

I think Thor is the film that time has treated the worst in the entire franchise, as to me it feels very dated now. The character has changed and developed so much over the years that the over-confident, cocksure brute we see here just doesn’t seem like he is cut from the same cloth. As an individual film, it does work quite well, that Shakespearean thing working as a kind of genre unto itself, but it doesn’t fit the MCU as a whole for me. The actions decent, The humour lands better than in its direct sequel, and it does get credit for being a Thor film that people actually took seriously.

It’s perhaps harsh to judge this film by today’s standards, but as you will see later in the list, that doesn’t automatically put a film down the rankings. Thor is a near hit, just the right side of 5/10 compared to The Dark world. Perhaps I am being harsh, and you think this should be heralded as the introduction to debatably the MCU’s most powerful hero. I can certainly see why some people rate it, but when compared to the rest of the MCU, it just doesn’t measure up.

18 – Iron Man 2

Iron Man is, and always will be, the gateway to the MCU. His first movie (we will get to it eventually) is an astounding film, breaking new ground and putting a B list marvel character on the map. His second outing took that same character, turned down the likability a touch, upped the snarky attitude, and then let Mickey Rourke shit all over the film.

I don’t really enjoy railing on an actor or actresses performance as I genuinely believe the vast majority of them put in a decent amount effort at the very least. As Iron Man 2 villain Whiplash, I think we see an example of a role Mickey Rourke took purely because of a big pay cheque. He puts on a lazy russian accent, and delivers his lines with all the passion and gusto of a tired teacher in front of an unruly, disinterested class. The film overall is actually quite good, features some insanely cool easter eggs (Peter Parker!) and some of the best action in any of the phase 1 marvel films.

The F1 race scene is brilliant, and the suitcase armour is one of the coolest moments in the MCU. On top of that, the end fight is actually well done, with Iron man and War Machine teaming up just as they did in the TV shows I used to watch. Sam Rockwell often gets lumped in with Mickey Rourke for being the villain, but I actually think he is decent in the film, but he’s wasting his time trying to play off of Rourke’s Whiplash character. Damn this could have been brilliant. I bet Mickey wishes he took this role seriously seeing what the MCU has become.

17 – Antman and the Wasp

Okay here we are, the first of the tough decisions I had to make figuring out this list. The bottom three picked themselves, but every one of the films from here on in are movies I really enjoyed. Antman and the Wasp is a film that I think is a prime example of a modern-day MCU movie. It’s fun, it’s got clever action unique to the hero, and the villain is more promising than we experienced in Phase 1 and 2 of the MCU.

What puts it so low on this list is that I can barely remember what happened, why I cared, or if anything major happens except about 3 lines of dialogue and the after credits scene. Just 2 entries ago I mentioned how age has affected the movie, and Antman is the first entry that I think falls into the bad timing category. This film came out a few months after Infinity War. Nobody, me included, was really that invested in what Antman was doing during the events of the epic movie that released months prior.

It’s not bad, and I think repeat viewings might raise it up the rankings a little, but as it is, today, ranking the movies, This one just couldn’t spark anything in me to make it sit higher. This is essentially the benchmark for a standard MCU movie, and the next few entries aren’t necessarily better films, but it just doesn’t have that magic moment that the next few films did.

16 – Captain America: The First Avenger

This was, when it released, a film I honestly couldn’t believe I was seeing. Captain America was always something of an enigma to me. He would show up in the odd Spiderman cartoon, save the day by chucking his shield about and then leave after a cheesy, overly patriotic line about freedom. This film took that goody too shoes, near infallible character and made him feel real.

This captures the character of Captain America so well. Steve Rogers is a very good, honest and unselfish guy. I mention moments earlier, and I think that’s a theme that will continue in these mini reviews. I remember the “I can do this all day” scene, partly because of its impact in Civil war and Winter Soldier, but also because it was iconic immediately when he picks himself up off the dirt. The moment that really sells me on this film, and sold me on the entire character of Captain America, is the scene with the “Grenade”.

Whilst discussing the potential of the men in the company, the sergeant chucks a dummy grenade to prove a point and show he should pick his preferred option. The grenade hits the floor, everyone dives away to save themselves. Steve doesn’t do that, he dives straight onto the grenade and yells for everyone to get back. In this moment, I understood what Captain America is all about. He is not just a symbol for America, he is there to save anyone he can, and will sacrifice anything to save someone else regardless of the situation. It’s a characteristic that has stuck with the character throughout 3 Avengers films and his own trilogy, given even more of a highlight by his fierce loyalty to his childhood friend Bucky.

The film actually makes a bit of a hash of the Red Skull character in my opinion, and there’s a considerable lull in the film with the montages of the war for me, but its a solid start for a character that, to me, is the centre of the best MCU films to date. Sorry Tony Stark.

So there we are, the bottom 5. Starting this list has reminded me how many good to great films Marvel has produced. Fan’s of this kind of stuff should count themselves lucky, I remember a time when X-men was as good as it got. You probably have fond memories of that film, go back and watch it now, it does not hold up. I can’t wait to go through the next 5, and from this point on its just going to be like listening to a greatest hits album of your favourite band. Thanks for reading as always.

These are a few of my favourite things (2018)

It’s a new year, so what else to do but write a post about my favourite film, TV show and game of the last year. These aren’t necessarily what I think is the best in terms of technical skills involved or even story, but they’re the pieces of entertainment that I enjoyed the most personally.  I have 4 picks, one for each of the 3 formats, I mentioned above, and then the one thing that I really enjoyed the most.

Favourite TV Show of 2018 – Killing Eve

I had no idea what this show was, right up until the minute I started watching it. A quick read of the synopsis told me it was about a female assassin, but beyond that I was blind going in. The shows brilliant leads Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh are equally fantastic in the show, and the dynamic that is developed between the them and the rest of the cast really make this show tick.

It has a little bit of everything I like in a show, and crucially for me, it doesn’t take itself too seriously which is what didn’t work for me in another good show from last year The Bodyguard. The only contender to Killing Eve’s crown was Netflix’s Daredevil season 3, but honestly even that didn’t come close. If you haven’t got round to Killing Eve yet, it’s on BBC iPlayer and im sure its streaming worldwide somewhere, it really is too good to miss out on.

Favourite Game of 2018 – Assassins Creed Odyssey

I have shocked myself with this choice and I am kind of cheating, but I know what my favourite piece of entertainment of the year is and I don’t want to give something 2 spots on this list, so Assassins creed has found its way here. I loved Spiderman, I appreciate the masterful work in Red Dead Redemption 2, I have played more of Fifa and Destiny 2 this year, and Fortnite is a endlessly enjoyable experience, but no game captured my imagination quite like AC: Odyssey did. I chose to play as Kassandra, and within the first hour of the game i was absolutely in on her story and what she was trying to do.

From the first moments on the island of Cephalonia, to the last minutes of the game I was hooked and this game does that by giving you a lot of fun tools, a massive, busy open world with lots of quests, and letting you play your way in it. I had largely given up on Assassins Creed after not enjoying the new style of play in the previous entry AC Origins, but this has brought me back and I still play this occasionally now, after completing the 3 huge main Quests. This was a very tight choice between AC and Spiderman on PS4, but today, I’m picking AC when tomorrow I might pick Spiderman, they’re both that great.

Favourite Film of 2018 – Avengers Infinity War (SHOCKING) 

This is a very tough category for me, with so many great films in 2018 i had a real hard time decidi…. LOL JK it just had to be Infinity War. Yes Spiderverse was amazing, and there are a lot of brilliant drama’s around, but nothing compares to the event that was Infinity War for me. It may require 22 films of homework before you watch it, but the payoff is sublime. A movie of this scale and encompassing so many characters is an achievement never attempted before in cinema history and somehow the Russo Brothers, Marvel and everyone who worked on this film managed to pull it off.

There are moments in this film that make me smile, laugh, well up, and gasp in disbelief. I remember the thought in my head in the final act of “Are they actually going to do it, end it at that iconic point from the comics”. I thought that, and then they went ahead and did exactly that. No spoilers here, but by now everyone has seen it, that moment is one of my favourite movie scenes of 2018.

Favourite Piece of Entertainment in 2018 – GOD OF WAR (PS4)

Sony Santa Monica’s God of War is the single greatest piece of entertainment I have ever consumed. Not just 2018, but in my 25 years on earth. Nothing in video games compares to the feeling of calling the Leviathan Axe back to your hand after throwing it through an enemy. No game I have played looks better than this game, and No game, film or TV show has ever produced a 10-15 hour experience all capture in one, long, uninterrupted camera take.

God of War can be compared to a stage show with its small cast of engaging characters and easy to understand plot, at the same time as being compared to the biggest blockbuster games and movies of all time with its spectacular set pieces and bombastic action. I know a lot of people, older generations in particular, will never see anything part of God of War, and I wish I could change that. God of War for me goes beyond just being a game, it is entertainment and storytelling at its very best.

Thanks for reading my rubbish! Please share if you think anyone else you know might want to waste some of their time reading my thoughts.

ChAzJS

Avengers Infinity War Review (Spoiler Free)

Its been a long time coming but finally Avengers Infinity War is here. Ten years, eighteen films, dozens of characters and a million fan theories have led to this and my excitement for this film was through the roof but with a lot of caveat questions. Could Marvel deliver on a decade of hype and build up? Would Thanos work as a villain? Could all these characters work in one single movie?

We have seen all the heroes in this film in at least one other movie so far, and the majority in 2 or 3, so the avengers, guardians and friends are all familiar to us which is gives the film a fantastic starting point. This is a film that would be simply impossible to attempt without having done what Marvel has, bringing so many characters into the public eye. You don’t necessarily have to see every marvel film that’s been released to this point, but you certainly have to have seen at least the two previous avengers films, Guardians Vol 1, Civil War, and Ragnarok. Going into this film having seen all 18 of marvels offerings is certainly the best preparation though and it definitely aided my enjoyment of the film.

One of the most enjoyable parts of Infinity War is getting to see so many of these characters we have grown to love meet for the first time, whether its Thor and Drax, Tony Stark and Star Lord, or Dr Strange and Spiderman. The Russo Brothers, directing this project, do as great a job as possible to give every character at least one moment, big or small, to shine. The trademark Marvel humour is there in spades and has some great moments that break up the overall serious tone and dire situation that all the characters find themselves in. The tones of so many various movies mix together wonderfully somehow, the comedic light-hearted guardians not feeling out-of-place with the avengers or the “not avengers but kind of are” characters who have had more serious films previously. Nothing in this film quite reaches the comedic fun of Thor Ragnarok, but the consequences of that film do weigh quite heavily on Infinity War and in particular on Thor, who probably gets the most screen time as a hero.

It an incredible achievement that I didn’t feel any character was grossly underused as I can remember a moment for every one of them where they caught the eye. Of course, we always want to see a bit more of every character but in a movie so packed of both characters and development of Thanos it’s impossible to have that without a preposterous run time of something like 4 hours. The two and a half hours of infinity war fly by, and fits in a lot. There may be a bit too much going on for some people, as the film does switch from place to place at speed. I was engaged throughout so didn’t find it too hard to follow what was happening, and each location was noticeably different so I always felt within seconds i knew which storyline we was going to.

I have gotten this far, and praised this film a lot, but the biggest strength of Infinity War is, for the first time in the MCU, the villain. Thanos has been a shadowy figure throughout 18 films, reference with reverence by everyone who knew him and feared by all. Paying off on that is a huge ask and this film manages it. He is the main character of the film, and he is, in my opinion, the best villain the MCU has ever had. He is incredibly powerful on his own, a point which is made abundantly clear in the opening scene, and once he begins collecting more power from the infinity stones he is out to collect, he becomes more and more formidable. That isn’t what makes him great though, the best part is the motivations he has and the reason he is trying to wipe out half the universe. Writing that like that it sounds preposterous, but much like Killmonger in Black Panther, Thanos believes wholeheartedly that what he is doing is the right thing for the entire universe because of his life experiences. We learn about what he’s been through, what he cares for and why he’s so determined to win.

Everything Marvel has done to this date has been in build up to this in some way, you can draw a string from Infinity War to any previous MCU film, which is a completely ludicrous statement. The action, whilst never reaching the height of that airport fight in civil war, is consistently brilliant, among the best use of powers and abilities we have ever seen. Infinity war takes all the best parts of all of marvels decade of films, and combines them into an incredible crescendo that rivals Empire Strikes Back in terms of impact and memorable moments.

Good: The culmination of a decade of work, fans will be blown away by this film. It delivers.

Bad: If you haven’t been keeping up with the MCU, you will not get anywhere near as much out of this film. Prior knowledge being a requirement is rare for films but Infinity War is no place to drop in.

9.5/10 – They did it.